KeyBank Match-up of the Match: Diego Chara vs. Osvaldo Alonso
Fulcrum point. Straw that stirs the drink. Quarterback. General. There’s all kinds of various clichés to describe the role of the central midfielder.
At their best, the central midfield role is the person who gets all the pieces of the puzzle to fit together. They may not always show up on the score sheet with goals or assists, but it is the little things that make these players’ work so important and essential.
Enter Timbers central midfielder Diego Chara. With his arrival, head coach John Spencer has altered the way the midfield, and in turn, the entire team plays. Earlier in the season, the midfield featured a traditional attacking center mid paired with a defensive midfielder in the middle. One to move up. One to hang back.
But Chara’s presence changed all that as head coach John Spencer was able to have him team with captain Jack Jewsbury as two box-to-box midfielders who have both the stamina and soccer awareness to shuttle back and forth in attack and defense. Jewsbury still maintains a role as a free kick specialist, and Chara often plays the role as the center point for the Timbers movement on the field.
In Seattle, a team hit hard by injuries to key players, their central midfield is also in the hands of a similar player in Osvaldo Alonso.
A slick passing midfielder who defected from his native Cuba during the 2007 Gold Cup, Alonso played for a season with the USL Charleston Battery in 2008. Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid signed him in 2009 where he became a key element to Seattle on-field run of play. On Saturday (8 pm PT, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, 95.5 The Game, La Pantera 940 AM), the Seattle 2010 team MVP will be mirroring Chara’s every move and vice versa. Who gets the better of who will go a long way towards determining the outcome of this game. As such, they are our KeyBank Match-up of The Match.
KeyBank Match-up of the Match
It’s hard to believe that Chara has only been playing for Portland for three games—two of them starts. The former Deportes Tolima player reunited with his old friend and teammate Jorge Perlaza and has quietly gone about his business taking on a greater role with each passing minute.
Much like Spencer’s trust in giving Jack Jewsbury the captain’s armband only days after his arrival, Chara has been given the keys to the car and the stability to the midfield has already become clear.
In Alonso, Chara will be faced with a very similar player. Blessed with great vision and soft touch, Alsono, not unlike Jewsbury, also isn’t afraid to let one rip from 20-some odd yards out. He tracks back. He looks for open space. He is their drink stirrer.
Should Chara—perhaps with some help from Jewsbury—be able to command the flow of the game in the midfield and minimize Alonso’s effect, then the Timbers may kick off their Cascadian campaign in incredible style.